Prologue - Hell's Bells Revisited
2006 - Three years after Chosen
Before Buffy woke up to the first day of the rest of her life, she had a dream. This was not a premonitory dream. She dreamt of the past. One morning, she had sat in the kitchen of Matt’s house looking through the job advertisements in the newspaper. Suddenly, the door had flown off its hinges and Willow had stormed in, carrying the scythe. Willow did not really break down the door, nor did she actually carry the scythe with her. This only happened in the dream, because dreams like to emphasise and embellish.
Willow was angry. Willow was often angry. This particular morning, Willow was angry, because she had just learnt that Buffy had given her scythe to Kennedy.
“You said you weren’t leaving,” Willow shouted.
“Don’t you think Kennedy can take my place?” Buffy asked. “You and her are still ..?”
“That is not the issue. Of course, she took it personal when I reacted like I did, but she does not understand,” Willow raved, “and neither do you!”
“Maybe this time I should tell you why I really did it, instead of just yelling back at you,” dream-Buffy said to dream-Willow.
“I don’t want to hear it,” Willow said, just as she did before.
“Why does this matter so much to you?” dream-Buffy asked.
Dream-Willow seemed to realise that Buffy was no longer reading from the script, but she did not answer. At least, Buffy did not remember an answer when she woke up. It did not take long before she forgot the entire dream. There was so much to worry about for today. Hair needed to be done, a dress needed to be put on. Today was the day that Buffy married Matt. Who is Matt, you ask? So did Xander. And so did Willow. And so did most of Buffy’s other old friends. The answer was not as interesting as they had suspected. Matt was a good catch by any standard, except maybe slayer-standard, but then Buffy was not a slayer anymore.
The ceremony was beautiful. The maid of honour looked a little distant, except for a moment when Buffy thought she could glimpse the old giddy Willow. Matt said his vows without stumbling his words. He took Buffy by the hand and walked down the aisle without shivering under the large crucifix that hung from the ceiling. He did not spontaneously combust when they stepped out into the sun.
There were no family to greet Buffy on the steps. Mother was dead. Father had missed too many ice ring dates. Sister was … Did Buffy have a sister? She could not remember. The planning of the wedding had been such hard work. She may have forgotten a few of the invitations. Giles was there. He had been the one giving her away – away from the Scoobies and into a new life of domestic bliss. He cried. Of course, he cried. And Buffy cried, too. Most of the photos were ruined.
Then it was a bit of a blur. Camera flashes, handshakes and hugs. She ran into Willow just before the reception was about to start. Willow had arrived only yesterday, so the two had not had the time to properly speak. They hugged. It was the fifth or sixth time they hugged today. This time it was a little tighter, because they were practically alone. Buffy even felt Willow’s nails bite into her exposed shoulders. Luckily, Willow kept them short. When they pulled back from each other, Willow’s eyes were swollen.
“I … yes … good!” Willow held up both her thumbs. “Congratulations! Once more, this time with… yes!”
“Thank you,” Buffy said. “Hopefully it won’t be long before I will get to be there for you at your special day.”
“That won’t happen until long after the winds of change stop blowing backwards,” Willow mumbled.
“Sorry,” Buffy apologized. “My foot still lives in my mouth. My mouth and my new Cinderella shoes.”
Buffy tried to keep the conversation moving. “Speaking of which, where is Kennedy?” she asked. “I did not see her.”
Willow looked away. “In New York … or somewhere … engaged to be married to some famous real estate mogul with bad hair.”
Buffy’s jaw dropped. “Kennedy … is … engaged!?”
“I’d rather not talk about it.”
“To a man?"
“A lot of things have surprised me lately,” Willow mumbled. “None of them good.”
“Well, from one uncomfortable subject to another. Will you be able to take care of Xander tonight?”
“Xander is better,” Willow insisted. “I will still be transmuting his wine into water. And he will be scowling at me as though he suspects. I never manage to get the taste quite right.”
“I am sorry,” Buffy said. “It is just…”
Willow held up her hands. “I know,” she said. “And Xander knows. He will behave himself.” She sighed. “I cannot pretend like I don’t know what he is going through, though. Neither of us believed the Slayer would retire before her slayerettes.”
Buffy folded her arms. “There is nothing left to slay.”
Willow rolled her eyes. “That is just semantics.”
“No,” Buffy said. “That is facts.”
“Facts, schmacts,” Willow mumbled.
“What are you even still doing?” Buffy asked, referring to the remains of the Scooby/Slayer-group.
Willow grimaced. “We’re doing … stuff. It is not like the world is all perfect just because the demon population is down.” She sighed. “Xander is not doing much of anything. I need to remember to send him a gold watch in the mail.”
“You’re not turning the slayers into that college Wicca group with the bake sales and the vagina monologues?”
“Na-ha,” Willow protested. “You are being very unfair. You should come down and check up on us. We are still relevant.”
Buffy laughed. “I will drop by the office once Matt and I are back in the country, just to make sure you are keeping out of trouble.” She put a hand on Willow’s shoulder. “Are you ready to dance and eat cake? And for your speech?”
Willow grabbed Buffy’s arm. “Don’t go just yet,” she said. “I have something to tell you, but I am not sure if I should.”
Buffy raised an eyebrow.
Willow looked anxious. “It may be bad timing, but you would probably want to know, and I am not sure when I will get the chance.” She sighed. “Just know that I did not plan to spring this on you.”
Buffy laughed. “Out with it, Willow.”
“Angel has asked me to help him,” Willow said. “The Powers That Be contacted him…”
“I am sure you, him and Faith can solve this little job without me…”
“It is not a job,” Willow said. “They’re retiring him.”
Now Buffy grimaced. “Which means?”
“He’s been pardoned. And he has asked me to play the role of fairy godmother and turn him into a real boy.”
A silence ensued. Buffy felt a surge of emotions well up inside her. Willow looked at Buffy discerningly, as if she was trying to gauge her reaction.
“Give him my best,” Buffy managed. “Even if he has failed to give me his.”
Willow’s eyes widened. “Oh, that was supposed to be my job.” She smacked her forehead. “There should be a floral thingy with a card on the table somewhere. Real gaudy. Made me forget Harmony is not his secretary any longer.”
Buffy frowned. “I did not see it.”
“I’m under so much pressure,” Willow explained. “There is the speech I have to hold and the ritual I have to prepare. I run what’s left of the slayers. There is no one else left. Soon, I will be babysitting Andrew all by myself.” She sighed. “It is probably up in my room or somewhere. Maybe I asked Xander to bring it.”
Buffy laughed. “Forget about the flowers, Will. And forget about Andrew. Nobody says you have to babysit him.”
Willow looked sad. “Well, Andrew is the only one still willing to put in any effort. That is why I tried to talk Angel out of it…”
Buffy raised an eyebrow. “Talk Angel out of becoming human? Why?”
“Because pretty soon I will be the only super-hero left. Willow the Friendly Neighbourhood Wicca with her annoying cheerleading man-child.”
“Then why don’t you retire, yourself?”
Willow grabbed a champagne glass. Not really to drink, it seemed, but rather to have something in her hands. “I don’t know,” she said, spinning the glass around slowly. “To do what?”
Buffy did not answer. She had not planned to spend the day giving career advice to old friends.
“So you are not concerned about Angel becoming human?” Willow asked.
“No, should I be?” Buffy asked in the most indifferent voice she could muster.
“Not even if the ritual to turn him was a sex-rite?”
Buffy shot Willow a look that was so fierce it made the Wiccan take several steps backwards, almost tripping in her long dress.
“It is not a sex rite,” Willow admitted. “Although I might have to take him to Las Vegas afterwards just to check that his soul is stable.”
“I am not coming home from my honeymoon just to kill Angelus,” Buffy said in mock threat. “If you mess this up, you have to call Andrew for help.”
The hall behind them was starting to crowd up.
“We should probably go inside,” Willow said.
“Just a moment.” Buffy took Willow’s hands in hers. “Thank you,” she said, “for giving me the chance to have this day.
“You’re making my eyes puffy, Buffy,” Willow said. “I cannot take all the credit for us still being here, can I?” She waved her hand to magically summon a tissue from the table.
“Do you think you will be able to get along with Matt’s family and friends?” Buffy asked as they walked towards the rest of the gathering party. “It will be a long night for you with only Xander and Giles.”
“They’re all Republicans,” Willow complained.
“I think there are some Democrats on his mother’s side."
“That’s just as bad.”
They parted ways. Buffy walked over to Matt and his grandmother. She looked and saw Willow approaching Xander and Giles. There were five empty champagne glasses on the table beside Xander.